Small ways to support friends

Group of people doing a joined high-five

Taking care of ourselves should be among our top priorities, and checking in on our friends can also be pretty important. But sometimes it's hard to know if anything we've done was helpful to them in any way at all.

One of my most hated feelings is when my friends rant to me about their struggles and I have no clue what meaningful thing I could say. I want my friends to know that I am one of their biggest supporters and I would do just about anything to make them feel better. As much as I want to convey this, there are many times where I'm left feeling useless and unable to do anything.

In my own research on the best ways I can support my friends in their time of need, I've come across some really useful tips. They may seem insignificant but they really help.

Listen to understand, not to respond.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking constantly about the next perfect thing to say while I wait for my friend to finish their part. While I want to be able to give flawless advice and a fool-proof plan to happiness, my friends aren't always seeking advice. Sometimes they're just looking for a quiet shoulder to lean on and vent for a moment before picking themselves back up. While it might not sound like you're necessarily 'doing' anything, just showing that you're listening can go a long way.

Be honest in your understanding.

It can be really comforting to someone if they know you have a similar experience to them. But what can be equally comforting is knowing that someone is willing to learn more about what they're going through to understand their feelings. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their feelings, but be mindful to let them know that they don't have to delve deeper if they don't want to.  This can show that you really value their openness to you and that you're willing to be open to them too.

Small gestures.

I really value small or seemingly insignificant things that friends do for me. Things like buying me a coffee from the uni's cafe, or sending me a text that tells me they hope I'm doing well go a long way for me. It lets me know that someone is thinking of me and is willing to sacrifice a small moment in their day for my sake.

Just being with them.

When I'm with someone, it gets me out of my own head. It forces me to think about who I'm with and listen to what they're saying instead of my unhelpful thoughts. I'm an introvert so I don't generally spend a huge chunk of my days with people, but just a couple of hours can switch my whole day around. Having a good laugh or group-wide rant of our struggles can make me feel so much lighter and far less isolated.

Don't forget, you are not personally responsible for anyone's happiness! You have a beautiful heart for wanting to support your friends, but if supporting someone starts to have a negative effect on your mental health, don't be afraid to step away for a bit. Pointing them to professional help could be the best thing for them in the end, particularly if they start saying things that concern you. Just letting your friends know that you're there for them as much as you're able to be can be just the difference your friends might need.

Tagged in What messes with your head, mental health, support, friends